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Monday, November 3, 2014

Writing again? Well, that's the goal.


Bless me friends for I have procrastinated, it has been almost a year since my last blog post. 


It is not a lack of things to post about that has led to this huge gap but more a lack of putting fingers to keys and just typing out the narrative that usually sounds so great in my head as I’m driving someplace.

 
Speaking of putting ideas into words - today is November 3, 2014 and NaNoWriMo 2014 is in day 3, and yep, I’ve signed up and started to write a novel. Hopefully I’m not just taking my procrastination to a whole new level, you know, by doing things like writing this blog post during my break at work rather than actually writing words that count for ‘the story’.
 

If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, for 15 years now November has been designated “National Novel Writing Month” and the goal is to take that idea that has been rattling around in your head for days, weeks, months, years – whatever, and put it down in words.  The goal is 50,000 words and thousands of people ‘win’ each year by finishing their work even though for most no one will read it – at least they accomplished it.  That’s my goal.  How many words have I written so far? 264 and I need to up it to about 1800 a day to finish on time so I will sign off here and get back to work so that during lunch I can write the book rather than the blog. 

 
If you are interested you can sign up for free and start your novel as well – you’ve only ‘lost’ 2 days so grab your paper, ink, pen, pencil, keyboard or whatever and go for it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

I like Thanksgiving, I really do, and not because I’m some sort of glutton (for punishment or food) but because it think it is really cool that we in this country have decided that it is important to set aside a special day to remind everyone to be thankful. 

It’s not a religious holiday, it’s not an ethnic celebration, it’s not even something particularly patriotic, it’s a reminder to say thanks.  It doesn’t matter what you are thankful for, who you are thankful to or even if you care to participate or not.  It is just there, to be a day to take a step back and say that through all of the other 364 days a year I may be running at 100 MPH and forget to be thankful but today I am reminded that I can and should take a look at my life and find things to be thankful for – everyone can.  Yes, I believe everyone can, poor and rich, young and old, sick and healthy, it doesn’t matter – I believe that everyone has something that they can say thanks for.  That to me is what makes it such a great holiday.

Sure over the years the feast has become more important to some, the shopping has become more important to too many (retailers and shoppers alike) and there are those who ‘dread’ the day because they put themselves in the way of “family drama”.  But ultimately, stepping back, saying thanks and remembering all that we have is a good thing.


Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Colors


Normally I love fall. 

The crisp mornings and warming afternoons, the leaves on the trees changing into glorious colors all around me and the opportunity to get outside and “do things” and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes makes fall my favorite season of the year.  I know plenty of people love the spring or the summer and even those who love winter but for me I've always been a big fan of the autumn season.  It is one of the things I really missed the six years we lived in Hawaii.

This year, not so much.  This year I am finding the change of the leaves sad rather than beautiful.  I am seeing the shorter daylight hours as a clock that I am running against rather than an ushering in of a busy and exciting time leading up to the holidays and I am watching the year slip by feeling like I have accomplished so very little.  I also keep feeling pressure to keep doing things at break neck speeds to please everyone else’s schedules.  This year all I see is the brown.

My “to do” list this year was more packed than ever and as a person who believes that I can do anything and everything, seeing so much of it undone is putting a weight on my shoulders.  Much of my “to do” list was left to me rather than something I devised on my own and because of that there are more people than usual depending on me to accomplish everything on it.  In my “away from work” life, I like to set my own goals and deadlines and this time that didn’t happen.  Most of it comes from my Mom’s passing away last November and as the anniversary of that day approaches there is so much that I was hoping to have done by now – that I just can’t seem to get to – and so many things that I thought I’d have had more help with. 

I’m beginning to think of 2012 as a kind of lost year, I was incredibly busy for most of it and still see the daunting tasks and “things I've got to do” that are undone and the pressure on me to complete them.  The house is still over full with generations worth of stuff, I haven’t seen or used my own pots and pans since we moved in here (in a hurry) and I’m using the ones I used growing up, my books and photos are still packed in boxes as the many many bookshelves here are still full of books that I need to pack up and figure out what to do with.  I need more boxes and yet my life is spent walking around and over boxes all day every day.  There are rooms that no one can walk in and my kids have belongings that they haven’t seen in months.  They ask for something and the answer is “it’s probably in a box somewhere”.  There is a storage unit in the driveway that is full of stuff with no place to put it, there is a garage full of things that will make it impossible to park cars when the snow flies and while the attic has room for stuff finding the time and help to get it up there is not easy.  The yard and landscaping need a lot of attention and I still need to paint, freshen and just generally update a lot of the rooms.  The garage sale I kept planning for April or May or June or July or August still hasn't happened and since the garage is so full of stuff where would I even have it?

What was I doing all year that these things didn't get done?  I know I wasn't sitting around doing nothing, I painted a lot of the rooms, I removed wallpaper, I raked and trimmed things in the yard and even tried to plant things, I went through a dozens of boxes and even managed to sell some stuff.

I cooked and cleaned and did a ton of laundry.  Didn't miss very many of those important Mom/Parent roles that needed attending to and I moved my family and dealt with the old house and all of the issues there, I made it to a lot of sports practices and games and put more miles on my mini-van than I care to think about.  But there was so much I thought I’d be done with by now.

I really want to make this house a comfortable home for my family.  It was a great and comfortable home to grow up in and right now all I see when I look around is a mess of stuff with no place.  I feel out of place here and while I know that it will take time to turn this into our house I am getting frustrated with the daunting task of making that happen.

So this year the advent of fall and the upcoming anniversary of my Moms death is making me feel like this has been a failed and lost year.  The rooms I wanted to clean out, the stuff I wanted to get rid of, the bathrooms I wanted to update and paint, the stuff I already accomplished have all been forced and that is part of what is weighing on me, none of it is what I wanted to do – all of it is stuff that I’ve found myself and my family in a position where we had to do it because no one else would.

Jason has been very helpful and while I’m sure he is frustrated at the slow pace he has also been understanding that so many of these things are tasks that only I can undertake because of my attachment to them and this place and a fear of making the “wrong decision” with all of this stuff that is “not mine” but somehow now mine and my brothers.  A little more help from them would be nice but they also have their own lives and their own time lines and goals regarding this place and what is to be accomplish here.  More pressure.  

I didn't want to paint the bedrooms, I had to for us to move in.  I didn't want to go through all of the stuff collected for generations here but it is something I've had to do.  I don’t want to clear out the living and dining room but I have to.  I don’t want to re-do the landscaping but it needs done so I will have to (and thank God Jason is doing most of that).  And really, it is not that I don’t want to do these things – they are all very nice things, and I am good at them and for the most part they really need done.  It is the way that this task has come to me.  I wish I was going through the boxes and the drawers, and the closets and the books with my Mom and not alone.  I wish I had her permission to get rid of her stuff.  I know I don’t want a lot of the stuff, I know that in most cases my brother’s don’t want it (we won’t really go there though) but I also know that so much of it she kept for her own reasons and that makes it harder to go through – but again I know that I have to because I have to make room for my family and I also know that she would want my family to be comfortable here and to enjoy this house as our family did here growing up.

So here I am lamenting the beginning of fall and this lost year – hoping to dig out and bit by bit make a dent in the daunting tasks started nearly 11 months ago – hoping that they’ll be done by this time next year…


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Old Greeting Cards


Boxes of Family History

If the boxes of cards I’ve found squirreled away in my house are any indication, my family has been supporting the greeting card industry for over 80 years .  My family also seems to have an insane need to save all of them.  Tuesday morning I thought this practice was crazy as I faced down 3 bankers boxes of greeting cards saved by my Grandmother and then those also saved by my own Mother over the years.  Part of me just wanted to take the boxes to the paper retriever at the school and be done with them all, put ‘em towards the $20 per ton the school gets on paper recyclables.  I even started to put them in a trash bag – some things are just daunting and as this entire house is filled with boxes that need gone through, at first glance it looks like just a lot of paper – but I stopped.  Then I thought “hmm, wonder if any of those are worth anything on eBay?”  Looked on eBay and apparently yep, there are people who love old greeting cards. 

So, yesterday I sat down with my boxes lined up to go through.  What a treasure of family history and a really neat glimpse into the past and how the people in my family showed their affection for one another.  The oldest greeting card I found in there was from when my Grandmother and Grandfather were dating in 1928, she was 18 years old and apparently she was Andy’s Sweet Tootsie Wootsie.  There are dozens of cards in there that they gave to each other over the years.  They showed a great affection for each other, not only in the cards they chose for each other, but in the hand written messages that are inside these beautiful and sometimes crumbling pages. 






My Grandmother, who I am named after, kept them all.  The cards from her siblings, from her friends, from her parents, her kids, her husband, from her grand kids and great-grandkids.  She kept not only cards that were addressed to her, but also those to the rest of the family in that house on Chester Ave. in McKeesport.  There are cards and post cards from her brother Stan who died in World War II, one very sweet Birthday card he sent to my Mom, his Goddaughter, and I will keep that one forever.   Some had notes in them, some had clippings, a few old recipes and photographs accompany them as well. 

Some are from and between my Mom and her brothers. Apparently bathroom humor on greeting cards is nothing new, and always funny to brothers wishing their sibling a happy birthday.  Some are appallingly politically incorrect looking at them from 2012 but were not seen as such in the 1940s.  A Happy Birthday Dad card with “Honest Injun You Great!” me laugh after I recovered from my jaw dropping.

As I made my way through the boxes the feeling that my family always enjoyed humorous cards was very evident.  While there are plenty of the usual sentimental cards expressing love and caring and appreciation that the card companies depend on to stay in business it was apparent that my family has always enjoyed laughter and laughing with and at each other.  One of my favorites from the early/mid 1950s is from my Great Aunt Alice to her sister Eleanor my Grandmother.  It says “Live it up on Your Birthday Sister, and don’t worry about ruining the family reputation”  inside is says “I did that years ago”.  Those ladies have been taken from us and it so nice to see how fun and playful with were in years past.

As the years went on and the cards were mailed to my grandparents from the places their children scattered to over the years, post cards were kept with the cards, as the grandchildren were born, as my Grandfather passed away, as  great grandchildren came along she kept them all.  As the cards changed, the paper used changed, the sizes grew, the sentiment was still the same and more than half still showed that great sense of humor that flows through the family.  As I got to the third box I found that they were mostly cards that my own Mom had kept over the years, I remembered sending so many of them to her and laughed at the ones my oldest brother managed to find and send – he always finds the “best” cards.  I’m so glad I went through the boxes, it is still a lot of paper but paper is where we tend to find family history. 

The task of going through the quite literally 100s of boxes of ‘stuff’ here in this house is quite daunting and many people have suggested just getting a roll off and pitching so much of it – and yes, a lot of what is here probably just needs to go, in either the trash or on eBay – old warped pots and pans, dull knives, broken coffee percolators and more I have to take the time to go through these boxes because for every box of “stuff” there seems to be one or two treasures in there.  And these boxes of cards held a lot of treasure in them. 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Work FROM Home Mom



The Work at Home Mom  

I’m sure we’ll all agree that Moms who are home all day, work long hard hours with their only compensation being the occasional “thanks” or the ever heart-melting “I love you Mommy”.   The Mom at home is in fact a work at home Mom no matter what anyone else would try to have you believe.

The crazy trick that I am trying to balance is the role of Work FROM Home Mom. 

I spent a good amount of last year unemployed, and while that did work out in the “not having to pay for child care” arena, it did very little to assist in the “putting food on the table” activity. 

As anyone who has tried to find a job in the past several years knows, there are not a whole lot of jobs out there right now and the job openings that do come up don’t seem to pay very well, and when you do apply for a job you know going into it that there are likely a thousand other equally qualified people applying for the same position.  It is very overwhelming and often depressing.  It seems that the holy grail of jobs is the work from home position, you don’t have to make as much money as you did outside the house in order to have a similar standard of living since you don’t have the commute or the clothing issues, the lunch cost issues and in many cases, the child care issue.  As all three of my kids are in school full time I thought this seemed like a good avenue to pursue – and my husband agreed.

Direct hire work from home positions are few and far between and the majority of jobs for the work at home employee are often in the “independent contractor” or “freelance” designation.  In effect you become your own employer and hire out your skills.  You may or may not be tied to one company with this set up and you are completely responsible for your own expenses, taxes, and equipment.  This is where I found myself, first on a “jobber” basis and finally on an independent contactor basis.  I LOVE the company I do work for, I really like the people that I work with (I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them in person more often), and the work I do is something I am good at and enjoy.  It is also part time which works with my schedule and as phone work is only a very minor part of the work I can often complete my tasks at any hour of the day.  Sounds great for the work from home Mom doesn’t it?

Nothing throws a wrench into the work from home dream like kids.  Kids who will be happy to be left alone to watch TV or ride bikes or read a book or play with friends have a sixth sense about when Mom is getting on a work phone call or is concentrating on something for “the boss”.  I am quite sure that if I had no idea where my kids were and needed them to all show up at once all I would need to do is try to get in touch with a client for something and they’d all come running needing something RIGHT NOW (of course).

I’m not sure how to balance it all, Monday of this week when the unexpected day off from school happened I barely got any work done, yesterday was a pretty balanced day and today I had to force myself to take a break to eat (and write this).  I’m looking for answers on how to balance it all, working (at home), raising kids, cleaning the house, making dinner, walking the dog and that big pile of laundry that needs folded.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out and the kids will adapt but for now I have to go, dog wants in, dryer needs emptied, need to send a work e-mail and go pick the kids up from school.  Wonder what is for dinner?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Unexpected School Closings


The kids suddenly getting a day off from school is usually a bit predictable.  There is usually a storm front of some sort to follow on the weather.  The forecast will show something that gets the kids all excited to get a “snow day” and they’ll go to bed with their pajamas on inside-out because, as school age superstition around here has it, that helps the snow storm pile up the frozen white fluffy stuff and cancel school for the day.

So when it is late August and 75 degrees outside and I get the kids up for school and take the dog out for a walk in shorts and a t-shirt, I really don’t expect to walk back inside the house at 6:45 A.M. to hear the words “no school today” coming from my husband as he is telling the older 2 kids they can go back to bed (the youngest was already in her gym uniform and walking the dog with me).  The verdict for today is broken water main on the property of the school and as they have no water in the building, they cannot have school. 

A couple of years ago this would have filled me with dread and a little bit of panic as I would have to figure out what to do with the kids so I could get to work.  When my Mom was still alive I would have called her and begged for the kids to have a day with Granny and she would have likely saved the day.  But it also might have meant ticking off my former employer by calling in with a family emergency and this would have angered the borg collective that I worked for since they aren’t very understanding of unexpected time off for family issues (heck, they are  a major hospital system and they aren’t very understanding of missing work when you are sick – but I digress).

Fortunately these days I am now at home during the day, I miss the full time paycheck, but the ability to adapt to days like today is one of the plusses that come with the lower income.  Instead today there was eye-ball toast, pancakes with chocolate chips and an ignoring of housework that really needs to get done – time to move everything on the “to-do” list over a day or so.  But for the parents who work outside the home full time and depend on a certain schedule I feel for you.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Volleyball Season -- Whoo Hooo!




Volleyball season starts today for my 13 year old daughter, this starts her last season as an SCS Lady Knight.  She loves the sport and we love watching her play.  She’s come a long way since she first stepped onto a volleyball court at 7 years old to play in the Police Athletic League, Windward Volleyball at Kailua District Park.  Back then the team was assigned orange T-Shirts and called themselves the Smashing Pumpkins (parents may have had some input on the team name).  Those “little” kids were so tiny next to the net and sometimes watching those games was downright painful.  But Volleyball is a kind of religion in Hawaii, girls college volleyball is often shown on TV and the bars will be full of people watching it so it was taken quite seriously, by even the youngest in the league.   Here in Ohio she didn’t re-start volleyball until 4th grade and she has been going strong with it ever since. 

She is now a 5’7” tall 8th grader with a mean serve and nasty block and I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. 

Sports teach so much to kids and to parents.  It is hard to lose or watch a bad call happen, it is difficult to watch your kid ride the bench, it is frustrating to listen to the other team talk against your team.  It is exciting to watch a long and good volley, it is a proud moment when your kid spikes the ball or aces a serve.  Our kids play CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports and are regulated by CYO and there are rather strict behaviors required of the players, coaches and parents so it is unlikely you’ll run into headline making parent brawls or bench clearing altercations.  It reminds people that the sports are for the kids and they are there to enjoy themselves.  The kids say a prayer before and after each game regardless of the sport and ask for safety, fair play and a good game. I kind of like that.

At a recent meeting for all parents with kids playing athletics at our school this year – the president of the athletic association mentioned a study he had read about kids and sports and in the study, college age athletes were asked a series of questions including “what was the worst part about games you played growing up?”  The expected answers were “riding the bench”, “losing a game”, “bad officials” and others like that, and they did get those answers, but the main response that these young people gave was “the ride home”.  When the parents would re-analyze the game, talk about the players, the coach, the officials and say what could or should have happened.  I realized that I am sometimes guilty of this with sentences that start like “next time you should…”, or “why on earth did so-and-so do …”, or something like “that official clearly doesn’t have vision insurance” and probably a bunch more.  Probably doesn't make for the best ride home after all.

This year I am going to resolve to make a stronger effort to go with positive reinforcement on that ride home – she is 13 years old and has played this game for nearly half of her life.  She knows when she makes mistakes and her coach is there to see what needs worked on for next time.   

God Help Me